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Newton Abbot preview: Lilac Tree to bloom again

Trainer John Ferguson does well with his runners at Newton Abbot, and Lilac Tree can defy a rise in the weights to provide with with another winner in the 2m novices’ handicap hurdle on today’s card at the Devon venue (15.30).

The Newmarket handler has a strike rate of 37 per cent at the track, and in Lilac Tree has a lightly-raced an unexposed gelding who had some useful form on the level and has progressed with each outing in four runs over the obstacles.

After shaping with plenty of promise to finish runner-up on his debut, Lilac Tree had little difficulty going one better when cruising home by seven lengths at Newton Abbot.

The five-year-old then lost little in defeat at Bangor when beaten 3 1/2 lengths by a progressive sort in Curious Carlos, travelling well for much of the 2m 4f contest and sticking to the task well.

Lilac Tree then appreciated the drop back to 2m to get back to winning ways when scoring in good style on his handicap debut at Stratford last month.

After travelling strongly throughout on the heels of the leaders, Lilac Tree was produced to lead at the last by an ultra-confident Aidan Coleman and quickened clear to win easing down by 1 1/2 lengths off a mark of 120.

It was a most taking performance, and one which suggested Lilac Tree was ahead of the assessor, so needed keeping firmly onside.

A 5lb rise doesn’t look look excessive given Lilac Tree’s progressive profile and, with Coleman once again in the saddle, he can defy top weight to land the spoils.

Richard Johnson has made a flying start to the season in his quest for a first jockeys’ title, and Sykes can land the 2m 5f handicap hurdle (15.00) to give him another success.

The gelding was a point winner who made a promising first start under rules when fourth in a novice hurdle at Newcastle on his first start for trainer Philip Hobbs.

Sykes then showed the benefit of that experience to open his account in good style at Worcester.

After being held-up at the rear of the field, the six-year-old cut through the field like a knife through butter to take up the running at the last and quicken clear to score easily by nine lengths.

Although what Sykes beat is questionable, the manner of the success suggested the son of Mountain High had a big engine and he is a scopey sort who remains open to stacks of improvement.

An opening handicap mark of 114 could well be on the lenient side, and Sykes can take this before going on to better things.

Selections:
14.00: Full Blast
14.30: The Yank
15.00: Sykes (NB)
15.30: Lilac Tree (NAP)
16.00: Hold The Fort
16.30: Conas Taoi